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Wed, Jan 19, 2000 - Page 2 News List

Quake summit seen as boost for
cross-strait ties

CHINA RELATIONSThe SEF is claiming a political win for arranging a conference at which Taiwanese and Chinese scientists can exchange information

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Representatives from the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF, 海基會) told delegates at a cross-strait conference on seismology that opened in Taipei yesterday that relations between the two sides show signs of improvement.

The meeting -- which includes 12 scientists from China is seen as a thawing of the standoff between Taipei and Beijing, initiated by President Lee Teng-hui's (李登輝) "state-to-state" speech in July.

"Due to the different political positions highlighted in July, the annual `cold air mass' from the mainland (大陸冷氣團) appeared to arrive in Taiwan several months earlier than it normally does," said SEF deputy secretary-general Jan Jyh-horng (詹志宏).

"However, we hope the exchange of scientific information can help to improve the cross-strait atmosphere," Jan said.

Regarding the absence of representatives from the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS, 海協會) -- the SEF's Chinese counterpart -- at the conference, Jan said that ARATS had sent a letter to the SEF on Dec. 17, relaying its best wishes.

"Without its support, it would have been difficult for us to come here," said He Yongnian (何永年), deputy director of China's State Seismological Bureau (中國國家地震局).

The Beijing group declined the invitation but was quoted by the SEF as saying it was "pleased to see its accomplishments."

Jan said the arrival of 12 Chinese seismologists marked a significant step forward and boosted hopes for further warming of ties that have been frosty for months.

"It's our goal to create opportunities for interaction by both sides," Jan said.

"Cross-strait exchanges should continue regardless of any change in bilateral relations. We hope this meeting can help create a favorable atmosphere," Jan said.

Many of the scientists attending the conference, however, said they would rather see the exchange of simple scientific information, rather than trying to use the event as a platform for political ends.

According to Yeh Yih-hsiung (葉義雄), director of the Institute of Earth Sciences at Taiwan's Academia Sinica, seismologists on both sides of the Strait have been communicating since 1992, when the first joint conference on seismology was held in Beijing, and that since then, exchanges have taken place on a regular basis.

"The purpose of the conference today is to come up with more efficient disaster prevention strategies in the event of earthquakes," Yeh said.

He stressed that they came to Taiwan with enthusiasm to contribute their knowledge and experience.

He went on to suggest that scientists on both sides of the Strait should work together, because China and Taiwan share the same predicament of being earthquake-prone areas.

"To minimize life and property loss in disaster areas hit by earthquakes, we have to improve our understanding of earthquakes, as well as disaster prevention strategies, by trading scientific information," he said.

There are more than 15,000 scientists working under the auspices of China's State Seismological Bureau, and officials there claim to have successfully predicted several earthquakes in Liaoning province, northeastern China, which they say has impressed many Western scientists.

At the two-day conference, 12 scientists from China are presenting 11 research articles regarding several quakes that have hit China, while Taiwanese seismologists are providing the latest available statistical data regarding last year's 921 earthquake.

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